Accountability deficit at ICANN: In addition to Cooling Off Periods, U.S. Government suggests post-employment restrictions

During the ICANN 63 in Barcelona, David Redl, the chief U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), gave his input into the Donut’s hiring of ICANN’s GDD Chief Akram Attalah. The US Rep suggested there should be a cooling off period for ICANN employees to maintain ethics.

NTIA has sent a follow-up letter which appears to criticize Ex-ICANN staffers  for leaving the regulator for industry companies. The full letter states

NTIA continues to be a strong supporter of the multistakeholder approach to Internet Governance, including through our participation as the U.S. representative to the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Paramount to the success of the multistakeholder approach is trust in the institutions that make decisions about the Internet’s future. While the community has greatly improved ICANN’s accountability through the IANA stewardship transition process, I am writing to raise a concern about an accountability deficit at ICANN.

Recent ICANN senior staff departures have highlighted that ICANN lacks postemployment restrictions. Given that ICANN, through the enforcement of its contracts with domain name registries and registrars, performs an industry self-regulatory function, it is necessary that conflicts of interest or appearance of unethical behavior be minimized. While the United States will recommend this issue be addressed in the third iteration of ICANN’s Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT3), which we expect to have had its initial meeting no later than June 2019, I encourage you to look into this now. One potential fix could be “cooling off periods” for ICANN employees that accept employment with companies involved in ICANN activities and programs. This is an ethical way to ensure that conflicts of interest or appearances of unethical behavior are minimized.

Akram joined his former boss Fadi Chehade who resigned from his post in March 2016 and joined ABRY Partners, a Boston-based private equity investment firm which has an undisclosed stake in Donuts.

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